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SGH brings in police to investigate Hep C infections

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has filed a police report over the 22 cases of hepatitis C infection, the hospital said in a statement on Tuesday.

“In response to media queries, we would like to confirm that we have filed a police report today,” SGH said.

It explained that it has taken the step to bring in the police because “after initial internal investigation”, the hospital was “still unable to determine the cause of the cluster of infection.”

“Currently, an Independent Review Committee appointed by MOH [Ministry of Health] is looking into this with the help of international advisors,” SGH said in its statement. “The police report has been filed so that the Police may ascertain if there was any foul play.”

Minister of Health, Gan Kim Yong, said on Tuesday, "Even as the [independent review committee] continues its work independently, we are not excluding any probable cause. Hence SGH has made a police report of the incident. This will allow the police to investigate and ascertain if there was any foul play.”

Out of the 22 infected patients at the hospital’s renal ward, eight have died.

The hospital had earlier said that four of the eight deaths were possibly linked to the hepatitis C infection, while a fifth had been under review.

SGH now says hepatitis C infection could have been a contributing factor for the death of this fifth patient.

On Monday, Prof Fong Kok Yong, Chairman, Medical Board, said "The [Medical Review Committee] concluded that the patient passed away from end-stage renal disease and pneumonia. While the death was not caused directly by HCV, the committee could not rule out the possibility that HCV infection could have been a contributing factor."

The independent review committee, headed by Professor Leo Yee Sin, clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, has now added two international advisers to help in its work.

They are Dr Scott Dewey Holmberg from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Professor Trish Perl from Johns Hopkins University. They will be assisted by Dr Amanda Beaudoin and Ms JoEllen Harris respectively.

“With the help of the international advisors, the independent review committee (IRC) will look into the cause of the cluster of Hepatitis C infection in the Singapore General Hospital and identify gaps or weak points that need to be improved,” Health Minister, Gan Kim Yong, said on Tuesday.

A statement by the IRC said it has started investigation work, including ward visits, interviewing staff from SGH, reviewing the movement and care received of the cases, and reviewing existing SGH records.

The SGH has so far screened 593 patients and said that the tests results of 512 of them are negative for hepatitis C.

The remaining 81 results are pending.

As for SGH staff, 296 staff have been screened out of which 294 have tested negative while two results are pending.